Astral refutes animal cruelty charges

Astral has denied responsibility for mistreated chickens found at a cull outlet near Johannesburg.

Astral refutes animal cruelty charges
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The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said it would lay charges of animal cruelty against Astral, after finding injured birds with broken legs and wings at an outlet where cull hens were sold. The chickens originated from an Earlybird farm, which is a division of Astral.

Grace de Lange, an inspector at the NSPCA, said that there were signs of severe cannibalism evident in the injuries of the birds. “Also observed were birds with large open lesions that had not been treated and some were maggot-infested. These birds were being sold for human consumption. No food or water was provided for the birds at the sales outlet.”

The NSPCA issued a warning to both the cull outlet and Earlybird, instructing that any sick, injured or diseased birds must be humanely slaughtered before they leave any of the farms.

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Astral has however stated that they have a strict policy not to sell sick or injured birds to any member of the public. “Once the birds are loaded onto the buyer’s vehicle, Astral has no further control over the birds and cannot be held responsible for any subsequent handling or ill treatment of the birds.

“Furthermore the photos that the NSPCA are circulating which depict the mutilated chickens were not taken at our facilities, but at an outlet that sells the culls,” said Chris Schutte, CEO of Astral.

The NSPCA claimed that this was the second incident in two weeks arising from Earlybird farms. In a separate matter it was discovered that the equipment designed and intended to terminate the life of deformed or injured chicks humanely was not working properly. This resulted in chicks being mutilated, dismembered and squashed alive.

The NSPCA issued a warning in terms of the Animals Protection Act requiring the equipment to be repaired within a stipulated time. It is confirmed that the equipment was repaired the same day and a new macerator was obtained.

Schutte explained that since the NSPCA’s first visit they have been working together to address the NSPCA’s concerns.

“The management and staff at Earlybird have co-operated with the NSPCA during all stages of its investigation and we have requested a second visit from the NSPCA team in order to review the amendments made within the hatchery and address any further issues within its operations,” Schutte said.